CAMPAIGNERS have made an impassioned Valentine’s Day plea to return hospital services to Hartlepool.
Hospital managers at the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust have said the changes have been based on clinical advice and services will not be returned.
The Mail’s Bring Them Back petition, which will be handed to hospital trust bosses, has had more than 12,000 signatures.
Speakers on Saturday included Keith Fisher, of the Save Our Hospital Group and Hartlepool MP Iain Wright as well as parliamentary candidates for the upcoming May election.
Those attending held placards with “No cuts” and “Keep the NHS public” on.
Mum-of-one Michelle McIntyre, one of the organisers of the rally, said: “We are already suffering and other people are telling us they are suffering.
“We need the NHS to listen to us.”
Ms McIntyre, of Dyke House, added: “We are all fighting and we all have to join together as a town and as a community to get these services back in Hartlepool.”
Damp weather didn’t stop strong numbers turning out for the rallying cry, which was compered by Jason Anderson from Radio Hartlepool.
Keith Fisher, who set up the campaign group more than a decade ago, opened the speeches and spoke at length about why services are needed at the Holdforth Road site.
“I’m not an expert, but I’ve been doing this (campaign) for a lot of years now,” said Mr Fisher.
“They just keep marching on towards building houses where our hospitals should be.
“We need councillors and MPs to do something with these people.
“I applaud the fact that twice the council have carried a vote of no confidence in this hospital trust.
“We need to stop these people operating.
“The public needs to let these people know that you are going to measure them on what they do between now and the election in May.
“The fact that you people are here says it all.”
Town MP Iain Wright told the crowds that he is going to meet with health secretary Jeremy Hunt in the coming weeks to discuss the issue of the future of services.
Mr Wright, who was heckled throughout his speech, said: “Wynyard is not going to happen. North Tees is inappropriate and inaccessible.
“Services need to return back to Hartlepool.
“There needs to be a vibrant, full service of hospital provision in our town.
“I am meeting with Hartlepool Borough Council and Jeremy Hunt and I am going to say that North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust has to listen and has to change.
“Hopefully we can make sure that the trust does listen and we have services back here.”
Other speakers included independent candidate Stephen Picton, Conservative Richard Royal, Phillip Broughton for Ukip and Michael Holt from the Green Party.
Mr Royal defended his party’s handling of the health service, saying: “Our healthcare spending has been increased by £13billion since 2010.
“There are 600 more doctors and 250 more nurses here in the North East than there were five years ago.”
Mr Holt said: “The NHS is Britain’s greatest achievement.
“Imagine how elitist this country would become if we didn’t have it.
“We want a full, public-run and funded health service, not privatisation and marketisation.
“If the rich paid their taxes we could afford the services we need.”